April 24, 2010 Saturday – Mont St Michel - Montpellier, France
This will be a killer travel day. There's not a lot of options from Northern France to Barcelona. I did find a decent flight from an obscure airport near Paris, but, incredible for France, there's no good public transportation to that airport.
Anyway, I bought my SNCF Carte Senior, and I love the French railway system. And I get a big discount.
So, I want to get an early bus to Pontorson.
I'll be taking the bus from Mont-St-Michel to the Pontorson train station.
Then I catch a train from Pontorson to Rennes.
I change at Rennes and get a TGV (fast) train to the Paris Montparnasse station.
Then I need to change to the Paris Metro line 4 in the direction of the Nation terminus.
I switch to Metro line 14 at Bercy and take it to Gare de Lyon, where I catch my train from Paris to Montpellier.
Sounds complicated, and it is.
My main problem will be making my connection in Paris.
I only have an hour and 9 minutes to negotiate two subway lines between Gare Montparnasse and Gare de Lyon to get to my connection.
It'll be an adventure.
So here I am at the Pontorson train station.
With my blue thing and my breakfast.
I wind up with a long wait because I took the early bus, rather than try to make a tight connection.
I like to be early in case something goes wrong so I can recover from a problem.
And it gives me time to enjoy a nice breakfast at the Pontorson train station.
So I enjoy my gourmet French breakfast and then notice that the train to Rennes is across the tracks.
So I go over there and wait.
A couple of English speaking kids show up on the other side. The girl looks at me and figures I'm a helpless confused geezer and wants to know if I'm going to Paris.
I allow that that's my plan but I'm going there via Rennes.
She's going there via Caen.
We agree to meet at the Bab-Ilo later, but that won't be happening. Only our beloved Dean could pull that off with an hour layover.
Too bad for her. She'll have to wait until June.
Her train comes and goes on the other side of the tracks. That's good news for me because I'm going the other way. As it gets closer to train time a lot of people show up and stay on the other side of the tracks.
I start to worry that I have this wrong, but stand my ground. After a while a young guy comes over and ask me in French if this is the right track to Rennes.
We both struggle with our French, so I ask him if he speaks English.
He says, “Indeed, I do”. I tell him I think we're on the right side to get the train, then point to the sign about Direction Rennes. We agree and more and more people show up on the other side. Including a batch of Japanese tourists.
They figure out they be on the wrong side and they come over and we have a Japanese/French/English conversation about the train.
The train starts to show up on our side and the rest of the dummies run over and we're on our way to Rennes.
It's a nice little ride of just under an hour through the French countryside.
I have a couple of hours wait here so I try to get an earlier train to Paris, but after a lot of time and trouble they want me to pay another 20€ to take the earlier train.
It would give me another hour to make my connection in Paris, but I can use the 20€ for a nice meal later.
I find a little nice café, get myself a can of 1664, and try to get on the internet.
Bummer, they want 8€ per hour and I don't need the internet that bad.
But, the 1664 was good.
Time comes to get the train, so I go over to big board that gives you the track number of your train. They don't do this until a half hour before your train leaves, so you need to pay attention.
While I'm waiting thinking about why I'm carrying all this stuff, a guy shows up seriously loaded up with baggage.
He's got a kayak paddle and I think he's also got a blow up kayak in his gear.
You will notice that his gear is bigger than he is.
Not so in my case.
I get on my TGV train, that means “train of great speed” and it's true, they run over a 100mph and get me to Paris in 2 hours.
Someday Orlando to Miami, 2 hours.
There's a serious blank spot of pictures here because of my tight connection in Paris. My young friend in Pontorson said, “No problem, it's only a half hour between Gare Montparnasse and Gare de Lyon.”
But I think he may move a little faster than me. Actually, I'm pretty sure of that.
I know Paris pretty well and there's a lot of walking involved between the major trains and the subway system, as well as a lot of walking between subway lines. Plus I have to stop to buy a Metro ticket.
I pull this off and get to my train with 10 minutes to spare.
I dont recommend this type of connection. It's an adventure.
It's a three and a half hour ride from Paris to Montpellier and I don't get there until 20:46.
I have a google map to the hotel, but it doesn't give elevations, so I wind up taking a less steep hill in the direction of the hotel and have to wind up dragging all my stuff down about 50 steps to the hotel.
I get to the hotel, and, yep, my room is up the stairs, but only one floor. I decide that I don't need my big blue thing, so I negotiate with the hotel owner to leave it downstairs.
I have a 07:19 train to Barcelona, so I figure I need to leave about 06:00. She doesn't get up that early but offers to accommodate me and I just need to knock on her door to get my blue thing.
I do a little walk around, but it's real late and I set my iPhone alarm clock for 06:00.
And this looks real good to me right now.